The knifeman who carried out Japan’s worst killing rampage in central Tokyo yesterday, killing seven people, may have been planning the attack for months.
Police investigating the killing spree, which took place in broad daylight in one of the capital’s most famous shopping streets, now believe it was scheduled down to the last moment.
The selection of Akihabara – the capital’s Electric Town which is famed as the cradle of modern Japanese youth culture – also appears to have been a central part of the killer’s dark scheme.
In the days leading up to the spree, Tomohiro Kato made several visits to “scope-out” Akihabara and establish its suitability for death. “I knew there would be lots of people and I decided this some days ago,” he told police.
Even as the minutes ticked down to the start of his bloodthirsty rampage, Mr Kato is thought to have recorded his thoughts for digital-age posterity by posting comments on a mobile phone blog.
The first, which appeared in cyberspace at 5:21 a.m. on the morning of the violence read: ‘‘I will kill people in Akihabara, have a vehicle crash and, if the vehicle becomes useless, I will use a knife.”
After a running commentary that tracks his 100km drive from Susono in the foothills of Mount Fuji - and includes the conclusion that the drizzly weather would not deter him in his “mission” - the messages end just minutes before the attacks were unleashed.
“It’s time; I’m going,” read the final comment, which is believed to have been sent just before Mr Kato drove the heavy truck into the crowded, pedestrianised streets of Akihabara.
As other chilling details have emerged about the life of the 25-year old man arrested for the multiple slayings, Japanese are collectively recoiling in disgust at what their supposedly law-abiding, controlled society has produced.
Until this fatal weekend, Mr Kato appears to have led the average life of a young Japanese man from a small, provincial town: a serious boy who graduated from a good local high school in the northern prefecture of Aomori and headed south to work in a car parts factory in Shizuoka. He liked driving cars too fast and would often, according to work colleagues, become deeply immersed in online forums.
Perhaps most strikingly, he appears to have shared with tens of thousands of young Japanese men a passion for Akihabara and its maze of shops and boutiques that helped create Japan’s otaku stereotype.
Originally, the word otaku referred to a sub-class of youth culture which focused on the minutiae of various hobbies – everything from manga comics and video games to model robots and animated pornography. More recently, however, the otaku phenomenon has gone mainstream and even financial analysts track the spending habits of its participants.
But early on Sunday morning, the facade of normality around Mr Kato finally slipped. At 7.14am he is alleged to have sent a text message to a work colleague, waking him up and informing him that he had something to hand over.
When Mr Kato arrived at the colleague’s house at around 8.45am, there seemed to be nothing abnormal – he was wearing the same expressionless “poker face” that he maintained every day in the factory.
The only obvious difference was the pale suit that Mr Kato had on, which were a stark contrast from his usually very casual outfits of T-shirts and cheap jeans. Mr Kato gave his friend a bag of DVDs, video games and left him with the enigmatic message: “I’m going to deliver this truck to Akihabara. I’m going to stop there briefly and then I’m flying east.”
Three and a half hours after that conversation, Akihabara had become a bloodbath.
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